In what ways can Malaysia take a leadership role within the ASEAN community?
PITSUWAN: Malaysia’s economy is second to none due to the fact that it has planned its economy and its industrial restructuring very well and it knows where the future markets are. It's moved away from an agricultural based economy and industry to electronics, computers, automobiles and tourism services. I think Malaysia has shown the way of how to adjust and adapt. Many of us are facing what we call the middle-income trap. We can't seem to get over $10,000 per-capita income. Malaysia looks like it's going to make it. Singapore and Brunei have already made it. In order for all of the ASEAN economies to get out of that middle-income trap, we will have to adjust and restructure. We will have to move away from labor intensive, manufacturing industry to a more knowledge based industry. We will need to incorporate technological content into the production system that we have. I think Malaysia and Singapore have done this very well. Other countries will have to do the same. We are challenged by the difficulty of moving away from labor-intensive industry. Thailand for example will have to move away from labor-intensive industry like textiles and footwear because those industries are going to go to Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam; you can't stop them. The dictate of globalization and integration will move them away to where labor is cheaper and where the environment is more conducive for such a labor-intensive industry. So, Thailand has to make that adjustment. Indonesia still has the largest market. It is taking over the status of the largest automobile market from Thailand very soon. Thailand now is a market of 850,000 units per year. Almost every household in Thailand now has a second car. Most families’ first car is a sedan or limousine and their second is a pickup truck. The population of Thailand is 64m. Indonesia’s population is 245m and the market there is now only 800,000. Therefore, you can see the potential in Indonesia and that it is going to grow. This will attract a great deal of investment from the region and from around the world in the automobile sector. Growth opportunities in Indonesia are very much in commodities, in terms of the extracting industry, as well as in consumer markets and consumer products. Myanmar is also exciting. It is opening up. It is full of natural resources. The market is approximately 60m and I would say they are very eager to consume, just as soon as they have greater incomes. You will then see the first television set, first refrigerator, first electronic fan, first air conditioner, and first car. The consumption pattern and intensity is going to be rather quick and fast. Once their house is in order, and it looks like they're getting their affairs together, Myanmar is going to be another exciting market of ASEAN. This is an interesting phenomenon in ASEAN: at some point one country is going to be a star and when that country's star is fading, there's another country who is moving up the horizon and will be attractive to foreign investors. It used to be Thailand, then Malaysia, then Vietnam, now Indonesia, and next Myanmar. Altogether, we hope by the year 2015 we will be equally attractive. We hope to see each as a boutique economy: special and unique with its own attractiveness, its own unique features, but complementary to each other much like a mosaic of very lucrative and prosperous markets for the world.
Malaysia’s economy is second to none due to the fact that it has planned its economy and its industrial restructuring very well and it knows where the future markets are. It's moved away from an agricultural based economy and industry to electronics, computers, automobiles and tourism services. I think Malaysia has shown the way of how to adjust and adapt.